7 Culturally Responsive Holiday Activities for Your Classroom
Celebrating the holiday season in the classroom can be a source of joy for students and teachers. Many school communities are made up of individuals with a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences that influence how students celebrate, and it’s often students from diverse cultural backgrounds or low-income families that are excluded the most from the holiday festivities acknowledged in schools. That’s why it’s critical for teachers to put extra emphasis on culturally responsive practices this time of year.
Although many schools strive to be culturally responsive year-round, even the most well-versed teachers can have trouble navigating this terrain around the holidays. To help you build an environment of inclusion, warmth, and joy, we’ve compiled a list of culturally responsive activities to incorporate into your classroom this season.
Make a Holiday Recipe Book
Food is one of the most-loved parts of any winter holiday. For a food-based activity, have students bring in recipe cards featuring their favorite holiday dish. Encourage students to go beyond just ingredients and instructions if they’re comfortable — perhaps sharing favorite memories or family histories surrounding their chosen recipe. Once collected, you can compile each student’s recipe into a winter-themed cookbook. A recipe book is a strong alternative to a traditional class potluck, which often excludes students who don’t have the resources to bring in food. Not only that, but students will have a tangible reminder of their classmates’ recipes for years to come!
Opt for Winter-Themed Decor
Not every student celebrates Christmas — a reality that’s not always reflected in our holiday decor choices. If you’re considering decorating your classroom for the holidays, opt for a theme that all students can relate to — the winter season. Snowflakes, cozy mittens, and hot chocolate are all fair game in the culturally responsive classroom.
Study the History of Winter Holidays Around the World
You can still be culturally responsive while acknowledging and even celebrating specific holidays; in fact, it can be a wonderful learning opportunity! The key is acknowledging a multitude of perspectives and traditions. This year, consider diving into the rich cultural histories of holidays around the world, allowing students to contextualize and experience different traditions and grow into more informed global citizens. A few winter holidays to spotlight could include:
- December 8: Bodhi Day
- December 13: St. Lucia’s Day
- December 16–24: Las Posadas
- December 18–26: Hannukah
- December 21: Winter Solstice
- December 25: Christmas
- December 26–January 1: Kwanzaa
- December 31: Ōmisoka
- January 1: New Year’s Day
- January 22: Chinese/Lunar New Year
Read Books on Different Cultures’ Winter Holidays
One of the easiest ways to introduce your classroom to different holiday traditions is through literature. Books give students a more intimate look into the lives of people different from themselves, allowing them to learn through stories and language rather than a string of facts or demographic information. Not only can students experience the breadth of winter holidays, but the diverse ways different people might celebrate the same holiday.
Create an Original Winter Celebration
For a creative approach to the season, have students come up with an original winter holiday to celebrate together as a class. Along with picking a name and date for their proposed holiday, students can think more deeply about what traditions and themes they value and want to commemorate. If resources allow, consider throwing a class party to celebrate the new holiday instead of a traditional holiday party.
Organize a Service Activity or Field Trip
While exact customs and beliefs may vary, most winter holidays are united by the spirit of giving, kindness, and gratitude. Help your students give back this season by organizing a service activity that benefits the community. At school, teachers can host a food drive, book drive, or even a winter clothes drive for the chilly months ahead. Service-learning field trips are also an excellent way to get students involved in the community and help those in need.
Explore Family Traditions
Consider having students discuss and share their own family traditions with the class (if they feel comfortable doing so). Encouraging students to share, and even research, their own family traditions can help them learn more about each other and themselves as individuals.
Every student deserves to feel heard and unconditionally accepted within their classroom. By implementing culturally responsive practices, you can make a difficult holiday season a little bit brighter for your students.
For more content on culturally responsive teaching, check out these blogs:
Being a Culturally Responsive Sustaining Educator During the Holiday Season
By Yaritza Villalba, Assistant Principal
Flags and Holidays Won’t Make Your Classroom Multicultural
Understanding Culture in the World Language Classroom